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6 Crazy Things People Used to Believe Were Medicines

bad medicine water

Let me start off by saying I AM a doctor. That’s 100 percent true and you know it’s true because a doctor told you it was. And as a certified medical person who does health, I can say I think I know a thing or two when it comes to what is a medicine. Grapes, for example: not a medicine. They are food. Pills: a medicine. But throughout the history of medical stuff, not all healers knew as much as I do. Some of them actually thought bad things were a medicine. And how silly is that? For example, some old-time doctors may have thought grapes were a medicine. Are grapes a medicine? If you answered “No, grapes are food” then congratulations — you passed the final exam and you are now the doctor. I am no longer the doctor. There can only ever be one doctor at a time. As a recent graduate of medical school, you may find these things that humans used to believe where a medicine funny. You may also want to try this medicines to find out for yourself. I trust your judgement. After all, you are a doctor. Here is the nonsense former doctors thought would make the people well:

Radioactive Drinks

bad medicine water
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People in the early 1900s believed that drinking radioactive water would heal he ill. There were radioactive pots of drinking water, radioactive toothpastes, and uranium sand houses all purporting to help cure people of a long list of issues. Today we know that radiotherapy can be used to treat cancer, but that radiation in general is something to be avoided (which we determined by looking at how many people drank radioactive water in the 1900s and how few of them became the superhero Radioactive Man).

Heroin

bad medicine heroin
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Do you have a slight cough? Try heroin! It’s a super effective drug that’ll have you coming back for more! (Even when you don’t have a slight cough anymore.) Patients love heroin so much that all they want to do all day is hang out in sketchy places and take more of it so they can feel even healthier! Even better, it’s the perfect drug if you’re a morphine addict, because unlike morphine, heroin is non-addictive! (Side note: this is something heroin makers actually advertised during the early days of the drug in 1898. And a mere 15 years later, in 1914, there were an estimated 200,000 heroin addicts in New York City alone. The moral of the story is that “non-addictive” and “addictive” are the “flammable/inflammable” of the medical world.)

Mercury

bad medicine mercury
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You know the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland? (And if you just pictured Johnny Depp, congratulations on your youth.) Well, his character was based on a real-life occurrence of bat-shit insane milliners (people who make hats) who went crazy from working with mercury, which was used to treat fur hats in the early 17th century, all day. Long term exposure to mercury can cause a tremor, pathological shyness, and erethism. But before we knew all that, we also used mercury as a medicine. Unfortunately for people who enjoy irony, it wasn’t used to cure excessive shaking.

Bloodletting

bad medicine bloodletting
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Bloodletting was an extremely scientific medical procedure that was common in the middle ages and was used all the way up until the 18th century. The basic thought behind it was that when someone was sick, it was because they had bad blood in them. And obviously if you want to cure a patient of bad blood, you’ve got to get it out of them… by cutting them open and draining them. It was an extremely well thought-out and exact science that is right up there with wishing and doing nothing in terms of effectiveness. But when you think about it, if you kill someone by slowly bleeding them to death over a long period of time, they are in fact no longer “sick”. So go ahead and put bloodletting down in the win column for ancient doctors.

Cocaine

bad medicine coke
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There are a lot of drugs that we now think of as “bad” drugs that started off as “good” drugs. At different times in human history, doctors have prescribed opium, heroin, LSD, Flintstone Chewable Vitamins, and, of course, cocaine. We know now that all of these drugs are addictive and can lead to abuse, overdose, and death, but cocaine is an especially semi-hilarious misstep by the medical community because it was marketed as a medicine for children. Luckily, we learn from our mistakes and Ritalin isn’t chemically similar to cocaine and prescribed to children (FYI it is).

Tobacco Smoke Enema

bad medicine smoke
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If getting a tobacco smoke enema is wrong, then I need to make a few phone calls and probably find a lawyer.

Which of these medical cures would you use?

Contributor: 
James Shickich
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